Image: Solar distiller during the tests carried out in the Ligurian Sea (Varazze, Italy). Credit: © Politecnico di Torino.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, by 2025 nearly 2 billion people may not have enough clean drinking water to satisfy their needs. That’s a pretty shocking stat, right?

One of the most commonly looked to solutions for water supply is desalination – the treating of seawater to make it drinkable.

Not only is this expensive to set up, removing salt from seawater requires 10 to 1000 times more energy than traditional methods of fresh water supply (like pumping water from rivers).

With this problem in mind, a team of engineers from the Department of Energy of Politecnico di Torino began developing a prototype to desalinate seawater – in a low-cost and sustainable way.

Their prototype works. Inspired by plants that transport water from roots to leaves via thin capillary vessels. The flotation device that the team developed collects water using a low-cost porous material then, using solar energy the water is heated up to sustain the separation of salt from the evaporating water. Finally, membranes are inserted between the contaminated and drinking water to prevent mixing.

The team have been working on this prototype for more than two years and testing locally in the Ligurian Sea in Italy.

This exciting innovation is taking full advantage of solar power to provide drinking water. The opportunities for application are endless. Another problem solved with smart thinking and renewable energy!

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